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Letters to a General Superintendent (Part 10)

What follows is the 10th letter in a series of letters supposedly written by an owner (Jack Owployer) in response to a general superintendent’s (Joe Gensup) request for something more than the typical job description. Though the company had provided a generic job description, what the superintendent needed and received was much more personal and heartfelt when compared to the sterile notion of do’s and don’ts so commonly emphasized throughout our industry.

Dear Joe:

Don’t take this in any way, shape or form as an accusation. I know better than to even consider the possibility that you yourself would do something like this. But you know me, and when something is bothering me, I just have to spit it out. The word on the street is that competitors are getting their hands on our correspondence.


It has come to my attention that some local competitors have gotten hold of copies of our letters. That wouldn’t bother me so much if they weren’t local and were decent competitors. But the idea that local competitors are tapping into our private conversations? Well, that’s quite another issue.


On top of that, when I found out that they are circulating our valuable “lessons learned” among themselves as they colluded with one another and attempted to use our hard-earned experience and solutions to gain a larger market share and steal some of our best accounts, it brings out the worst in me. Gypsies, tramps and thieves, drywall vagabonds and wannabes! That’s about the best description I have when it comes to this type of competition.


Putting aside the fact that I have no idea how they got their hands on it, it rubs me the wrong way to think that they would steal our personal, sometimes intimate, sometimes proprietary conversations, concepts and strategies. The things I share with you are nothing short of intellectual property. They don’t deserve a single piece of that action. Our business is none of their business.


I suppose it’s more of a compliment than a curse. One could view it as a consequence that inevitably presents itself to those who lead and compete, in any industry. Quite simply, it’s just an occupational hazard of leadership. They say, imitation is the highest form of flattery. So then, the fact that they are listening in, though I don’t like it one bit and I’d love to plug the leak, is quite simply inevitable. What we’re doing and saying is going to get out there sooner or later.


I’ve faced this issue many times over the years and on several levels. I’ve concluded—though I have to remind myself each time it pops up—that it’s nothing more than a compliment on the upside or, if you allow it to be, a distraction on the downside.


I was just blindsided by another all-time low. Reading our mail? I just didn’t think they would ever get their hands on actual copies of my letters. Never mind that. Let’s just get over it, take the compliment and avoid the distraction.


Let them follow. There is always going to be a natural gap between leaders and followers. The same is true between industry leaders and competitors. In addition, just because competitors find out what an industry leader is doing or more likely was doing, doesn’t mean they have the capacity to execute it and catch up, much less actually take the lead.


Yes, unless there is a mole in the organization, there is always going to be a gap, a competitive edge and advantage in whatever competitors learn about the activities and plans of those who lead their industry. The trick is to keep leading so that competitors never quite catch up. Don’t waste time trying to cover your tracks, blaze new trails.


I’ve got a lot bottled up inside that I want share with you about dealing with the “good problem” of being busy. There are several concepts and approaches that were in motion, planned or already mentioned in previous letters before we got into the topic of improving our organizational and individual communication skills. I want to expand on them.


Topics such as training, knowing the knowable, ramping up fast, over-hiring, promoting from within, incentivizing cooperation, developing versatility, fully utilizing resources and selective failure, just to name a few. Since we’ve worked together for quite a while, Joe, you’ve got the gist of what I want to elaborate on. For those of you who are listening in, especially nearby, I may be using a bit of code and lacking specificity. After all, do you really expect me to just surrender nearly a half-century of personal experience and involvement in the management of more than 60,000 homes, to the likes of you?

I don’t think so.


Doug Bellamy is former president of Innovative Drywall Systems Inc. dba Alta Drywall, Escondido, Calif. Visit him on LinkedIn or contact him at [email protected].

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